Unique Challenges on South African Roads - Taxis

ERS Driver Safety Series: Unique Challenges on South African Roads – Taxis

Our next instalment of our Driver Safety Series for South
African drivers (you can read our previous entries here: https://excelrs.co.za/category/articles/) explores a well-known factor on our roads which contributes greatly to our economy but also frustration with fellow road users – Minibus Taxis!

In this blog, we will explore the importance of taxis to our economy, some of the issues they create on our roads, as well as advice how to handle tricky situations where taxis are involved in order to make driving a more enjoyable experience for all road users. 

In 2017 there were more than 200 000 minibus taxis doing business in South Africa, creating an annual revenue of an estimated R90 billion. This is a story of entrepreneurship and in more ways than others, a vital part of our economy, as it moves around a big part of the workforce, daily. Taxis buy over 800 million litres of fuel and five million tyres per year. They are the “first and last mile” operators. Taking commuters from the bus or train station to their homes or places of work. 

The majority of the public transport sector relies on minibus taxis. They are a huge provider of jobs – around 960 000 job opportunities, not taking into consideration the jobs provided in and in the immediate vicinity of the 2 600 taxi ranks. Think about the queue marshals, hawkers, food stands, fare collectors and other informal retail businesses around this industry.

This proudly South African industry fills a gap, like no other. It’s an extremely efficient way to get around if you do not have your own transport, especially if you are familiar with the signals used to communicate your need with the oncoming taxi driver:

The most common phrase used, and one that all South Africans are familiar with is: “sho’t left”, meaning “I want to jump off just around the corner”.

The rule of the road seems to be a struggle for some taxi operators to practice and abide by. Most taxi drivers earn a % of the takings per week. Alternatively, they pay a monthly rental fee, so only profits on top of that amount (after paying petrol etc.) is their income. Although this does not excuse their behaviour in certain circumstances, one can understand that they must make the most of a couple of hours a day that commuters need their service. 

The questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Are you going to drive around taxis expecting them to act up at any stage and accommodate it,
  • or are you going to add fuel to the situation by acting aggressively towards the driver?
  • What do you gain by doing this?
  • Has the taxi driver changed their attitude, or did you only succeed in raising your own heart rate, feeling angry and frustrated and spoiling your trip (or an entire day), because of one taxi driver’s action?
  • Going beyond this – think about the passengers in the taxi who has NO choice but to use this mode of transport. Your action (or reaction), might have a direct impact on their trip, or even their safety.

Whenever a taxi does something which tends to upset me, I’m reminded of this story from Schalk van Heerden (from the Betereinders’ book). He relates the story of an incident on the road where a taxi tried to push in front of a car. The driver of the vehicle did not allow him to enter from the shoulder of the road, but the taxi proceeded to push in. The shoulder was however too high and the taxi overturned. The driver of the car who did not allow the taxi access had to look into the eyes of seriously injured passengers who had NO choice but to use this mode of transport. Was this 1 minute of his time or the 4 metres he’s lost in the traffic worth it?

In all fairness, we must agree that our city planning has not always been effective to accommodate taxis. Where are they supposed to park during the day in most neighbourhoods to wait for the afternoon run to start? Just considering my neighbourhood, there is no bathroom, parking facilities or place to wash for the taxis. So how can we get upset if this happens wherever an opportunity presents itself?

Do I condone this behaviour? Not at all. Will a change of perspective allow you to make a place for taxis or to change your mind about them? I do not know. What I can ask you is to be more understanding and accommodating toward this vital part of our economy and service most users do not have a choice to use.

Taxis are here to stay. Make them part of your day and journey by understanding their necessity in the bigger scheme of things.

We trust that the above will provide you with the help and guidance you need if you find yourself in a “taxi situation”, and do keep an eye on our socials for our next instalment in the series of driver safety tips for South Africans.

If it was not your fault, Excel Recovery Services and Phetolo ERS can assist to turn negative impacts into positive outcomes. Help is only a click away: https://excelrs.co.za/notyourfault/

We’ve got your back!

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